Welcome Refugees at Parramatta Park : Challenge to Coalition and Labor Policy

Organised by Parramatta Greens, and Co-Hosted by The Refugee Action Coalition and People Just Like Us

The Parramatta Greens today urged the old Parties to end their cruel treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.

A Welcome Refugees Picnic held this week in Parramatta was attended by nearly 40 people, including refugees from South Sudan, Syria, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq. Greens candidate for Parramatta, Phil Bradley spoke to those at the Picnic, saying “We challenge the old major parties to acknowledge before the federal election, that seeking asylum is a human right and that sending refugees to offshore prison camps must stop. Refugees are fleeing wars, torture, threats of death and persecution by discriminatory regimes. These people need our help, not further inhumane treatment. Others also need to be welcomed, such as our Pacific Island neighbours who are being forced to abandon their homes due to climate change.”

Lead Greens Senate candidate Lee Rhiannon, who welcomed the refugees to the picnic, said, “Earlier this month some refugees on Nauru passed 1,000 days in detention. Rather than turning men, women and children who are seeking asylum away, we should be welcoming them to our country. The Greens policy will continue to call on the Liberal, National and Labor parties to increase our humanitarian intake from refugee camps to at least 50, 000 people per year.”

Some of the refugees at the Picnic gave powerful accounts of their terrifying experiences.

A refugee from Syria described how his country now has almost nothing left to sustain people's lives. No jobs, no infrastructure. Battles, bombing and ISIS have destroyed almost everything. He referred to the Australian government’s promise to accept 12,000 Syrian refugees. He said that because of slowness of bureaucratic processes, only a few hundred have been processed so far, when at least 4,000 were supposed to be here by last Christmas. He congratulated Canada for managing in the same time period to process and accept 26,000 Syrian refugees.

A Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka said that he fled for his life during the 2002-4 civil war and that had he remained he may not have survived the May 2009 massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils. He said that conflict and repression of Tamils is still ongoing. He is now a successful businessman.

A South Sudanese refugee spoke about spending 14 years in a refugee camp in North Uganda, which the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army raided, stealing food and raping women. There were no facilities at first, until NGOs later added some basic support. He depended on scholarship aid to get an education and got to Australia via a "re-union" program in 2004, as his brother had arrived in Australia much earlier. He is now fully employed in community service helping the disadvantaged.

A young woman whose Iraqi parents fled from Saddam Hussein’s terror regime, told us she was born in a refugee camp. She is now employed to support young people into "transition to work programs”. She urged us to continue supporting refugees to adapt to our society and to find productive jobs.

For further information, including contact with the relevant refugees, phone Phil Bradley Greens Candidate for Parramatta - 0425 265 170 Senator Lee Rhiannon’s media officer Freya Newman - 0411 669 022